The Winnipeg Jets picked up an important two points in the standings yesterday as they edged the Blackhawks 3-2. It was a hard-fought game from both sides with the teams trading goals throughout the night. Despite the fairly low score, there were plenty of chances as Crawford and Hellebuyck had their hands full on a number of occasions. In the end it was Winnipeg who got the last laugh as Beaulieu scored his first goal of the season as the game winner.
Let’s see what we can learn from last night’s game.
1) Line switches
There was a bit of juggling with the lines heading into this game. When I say a bit, I mean every single line was different than we’ve seen over the last few weeks.
#NHLJets HC Paul Maurice said this morning there would be some juggling and shuffling around with the lines, he wasn't kidding…
Here were the line rushes:
— Ken Wiebe (@WiebeAthletic) February 17, 2020
Chibisov drew into the lineup for the first time in his career which was a nice moment for him. As for the other lines, the early returns were fairly strong. The top line of Copp, Scheifele, Ehlers had a few chances and looked strong in the offensive zone. The second line of Connor, Wheeler, Laine also looked really strong as Laine had a number of great scoring chances.
While the top six was good, the third line was the best line of the game. They played with speed all game long as they routinely got up the ice very quickly. All three players work hard on the forecheck and they generated a number of takeaways from their efforts. They even managed to score the first two goals of the game with tips in front of the net. While all three players are young and fairly inexperienced, it’s an intriguing combination that will hopefully be seen next game as well.
We saw a bit of a different look in the third period as Copp and Wheeler switched spots in the top six. After the game Maurice mentioned that it was for matchup purposes to help play against Toews and Kane.
Paul Maurice says no, the like shuffling was not to get Mark Scheifele going. It was to match with Kane and Toews.
I still like it to get Scheifele going.
— Murat Ates (@WPGMurat) February 17, 2020
2) Winnipeg out-played Chicago
This was an interesting game from the eye-test perspective. The Jets had a terrible start as they allowed two really strong chances in the opening shift of the game. Luckily they settled down after that and started to play better near the end of the first period. As you can see, the Jets were trailing in the expected goals until roughly the 13 minute mark of the first period. It was smooth sailing from there as they had an edge in chances for the rest of the game.
This matches the eye-test as the Jets seemed to get better chances for most of the game. Chicago had a number of dangerous chances, but those came after Winnipeg would get a flurry of their own. The second period was really strong for Winnipeg as they hemmed in the Blackhawks a few separate times. It was great offensive work by the entire team with the defense making strong pinches and the forwards keeping possession down low.
3) Back to the third line
With two goals on the night, the third line was Winnipeg’s best.
As you can see by the numbers, the third line dominated the expected goals share with an excellent 73% for the game. The interesting thing to note is that they had 12 shot attempts for and 12 shot attempts against while on the ice. Even though the corsi was only 50%, the expected goals were much higher. Even better than that was the high danger chances for as the third line generated seven chances while only allowing one against. Their seven dangerous chances is more than the rest of the lines combined.
Mason Appleton says he's played with Jack Roslovic a lot over the past few years — I asked him about that chemistry.
"I think it's just something I expect when I play with Jack. We feed off of each other's speed… We can kind of cross up on the d-man and do different things."
— Murat Ates (@WPGMurat) February 17, 2020
What made the third line so good? As mentioned before, their speed into the offensive end helps them generate initial chances on net. They also have great effort along the walls to win puck battles. That’s what happened on the goals as they won the puck and sent it back to the point. As soon as it went to the point, all three players rushed to the net to try and get a stick on the puck. Both times the puck was tipped in front of Crawford leaving him no chance at stopping it. However, even if he did stop it, the entire line was ready to pounce on any rebound.
It would seem that the bottom six will stay intact for the next game as the third line played really well and the fourth line is fairly consistent. The top six will be interesting to watch, especially if Wheeler moves back to the wing. Scheifele and Copp might be the centremen which would give an interesting look in the top six. Ehlers, Scheifele, and Wheeler have spent some time together and have the potential to be a really great line. Connor, Copp, and Laine is an interesting idea which might work as well. Copp is excellent along the wall and can hopefully bring a new element to the skill of Connor and Laine.
We will just have to wait and see how the lines are distributed tomorrow against the Kings.